Conference USA Football Bowl Notebook
Dec. 12, 2012
After a 4-1 showing in bowl games last year, Conference USA will once again have five teams playing in the postseason. C-USA Champion Tulsa will play in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and will be joined by UCF (Beef 'O' Brady's), East Carolina (R+L Carriers New Orleans), SMU (Sheraton Hawai'i) and Rice (Bell Helicopter Armed Forces) in bowl games this holiday season.
BEEF `O' BRADY's BOWL
Friday, December 21 St. Petersburg, Florida
UCF (9-4, 7-1 in C-USA)
NOTING THE KNIGHTS: UCF is embarking on its fifth trip to a bowl game in the last eight years and its second trip to St. Petersburg (lost to Rutgers in 2009)....A victory will give the Knights their third 10-win season since 2007 and fourth in school history....UCF had a league-high six first team All-Conference selections, including Defensive Player of the Year Kemal Ishmael (team-high 116 tackles) and Special Teams Player of the Year Quincy McDuffie (second in FBS with 34.2 yards kickoff return average)....Despite missing 2+ games with injury, senior RB Latavius Murray became the seventh player in school history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.
Ball State (9-3, 6-2 in MAC)
NOTING THE CARDINALS: Ball State's last bowl appearance came against a C-USA school in 2008, when the 22nd-ranked Cardinals fell to Tulsa, 45-13, in the GMAC Bowl...Ball State's three losses on the year came against Clemson, Kent State and Northern Illinois (a combined 33-5) before going on a roll, winning six straight games to close out the year....The Cardinals have a pair of first team All-MAC receivers in Willie Snead and Jamill Smith. Quarterback Keith Wenning earned second team All-Conference honors....BSU owns one win over a Florida team this season, defeating South Florida, 31-27 on Sept. 22.
GAME NOTES: This is the fifth year of the Beef `O' Brady's Bowl and C-USA has been a part of each game....East Carolina becomes the fifth different team from the East Division of Conference USA to play in the bowl....The game is played at Tropicana Field, the home of the 2008 American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays, and is the only college football game played each year at the facility.
R+L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS BOWL
Saturday, December 22 New Orleans, Louisiana
East Carolina (8-4, 7-1 in C-USA)
NOTING THE PIRATES: After a one-year absence, East Carolina will play postseason football for the sixth time in seven seasons....The Pirates have won five of their last six games, scoring 41 or more points in four of those wins...Running back Vintavious Cooper garnered the league's Newcomer of the Year honor. He became the first ECU player to rush for 1,000 yards (1,030) since 2009, topping the 100-yard mark in four games....Quarterback Shane Carden ranks second in C-USA in passing efficiency (144.93) and sixth in total offense (242.58). He completed 248-of-371 attempts for 2,838 yards and 21 passing touchdowns, while leading the squad with eight rushing touchdowns.
Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4, 6-2 in Sun Belt)
NOTING THE RAGIN' CAJUNS: In last season's R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, the school's first-ever bowl appearance, the Ragin' Cajuns defeated San Diego State, 32-30 on Brett Baer's 50-yard field goal as time expired....Baer was named first team All-Sun Belt as both a kicker and a punter this season....Quarterback Terrance Broadway is a transfer from Houston, where he started a pair of games for the Cougars in 2010 after Case Keenum was injured....ULL averages 443.6 yards and 34.3 points per game.
GAME NOTES: Conference USA will be a part of the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl for the ninth time in the bowl's 12 years....This year's game will mark the first daytime game in New Orleans Bowl history, with an 11 a.m. Saturday kickoff scheduled....East Carolina will be the fifth different C-USA school to play in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
SHERATON HAWAI'I BOWL
Monday, December 24 Honolulu, Hawai'i
SMU (6-6, 5-3 in C-USA)
NOTING THE MUSTANGS: SMU is in a bowl game for the fourth straight season, the first time in school history that has happened....Running back Zach Line was named C-USA Offensive Player of the Year after leading the league with 1,207 rushing yards. He is the second player in SMU history and fourth back in C-USA annals to run for more than 1,000 yards in three seasons. He ran for 12 TDs this year, giving him 45 in his career, second-most in C-USA history....A victory would give the Mustangs four straight winning seasons for the first time since a seven-year run from 1980-86.
Fresno State (9-3, 7-1 in Mountain West)
NOTING THE BULLDOGS: Fresno State shared the Mountain West Conference Championship with Boise State and San Diego State. It was the Bulldogs first conference title since 1999....Fresno State will be looking to snap a three-game bowl losing streak that dates back to 2007....RB Robbie Rouse is 13th in the nation in rushing, averaging 122.3 yards per game and has topped the 100-yard mark in nine of 12 games....QB Derek Carr, younger brother of former Fresno State star QB David Carr, led the Mountain West in passing at 311.3 yards per game with 36 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
GAME NOTES: The Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl has gained a reputation for offensive shootouts, with the winning team topping the 40-point mark in eight of the last nine years, while the losing team has scored 38 or more points four times....Conference USA teams are 6-2 in previous appearances in the Hawai'i Bowl, including wins in each of the last four games, two against foes (East Carolina over No. 22 Boise State in 2007 and Tulsa over No. 25 Hawai'i in 2010)....SMU will be the first C-USA school to make multiple appearances in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, which it has been partnered with in nine of its 11 years. The Mustangs defeated Nevada in the 2009 game.
BELL HELICOPTER ARMED FORCES BOWL
RICE vs. AIR FORCE
Saturday, December 29 Fort Worth, Texas
Rice (6-6, 4-4 in C-USA)
NOTING THE OWLS: Rice enters the game having won four straight and five of their last six games, with the only loss being by four points at C-USA Champion Tulsa....The Owls have a balanced attack that is averaging 421.1 yards per game on offense, including 201.3 yards rushing and 219.8 yards passing....Junior K Chris Boswell has made six field goals of 50 yards or longer this season, the most in the FBS....Taylor McHargue leads all C-USA quarterbacks in rushing with 628 yards and has thrown for 2,178 yards. He has thrown 11 TD passes and run for 11 scores.
Air Force (6-6, 5-3 in Mountain West)
NOTING THE FALCONS: Air Force will be making its sixth consecutive bowl appearance....The Falcons are 1-1 all-time vs. C-USA schools in the postseason, splitting games vs. Houston in back-to-back Armed Forces Bowls (2008-09)...Six of Air Force's last seven bowl games have been decided by seven points or less....The Falcons are second in the FBS in rushing this season, averaging 328.8 yards per game. Individually, running back Cody Getz ranks 20th in the nation in rushing, averaging 120.7 yards while scoring nine touchdowns.
GAME NOTES: Conference USA has been as part of the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in all but one year of the bowl's 10-year existence....This year marks the return to a completely-renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth....Four of the last five Armed Forces Bowls have been decided by less than a touchdown....Three of the previous six games between the schools were played as conference contests when Rice and Air Force were members of the Western Athletic Conference in the late 1990s.
AUTO ZONE LIBERTY BOWL
Monday, December 31 Memphis, Tennessee
Tulsa (10-3, 7-1 in C-USA)
NOTING THE GOLDEN HURRICANE: A victory will allow Tulsa to match the school record for victories in a season (11), set in 2008....This year marks the fourth 10-win season in six years for the Golden Hurricane....TU leads C-USA in rushing offense at 240.2 yards per game, with three players that have run for 765 yards or more....The Hurricane led C-USA in total defense, allowing 353.9 yards per game....TU is third in the nation in sacks and fourth in tackles for loss....This is Tulsa's second rematch game in a row. The Hurricane defeated UCF twice in 15 days and will now seek revenge on its opening day loss at Iowa State. Tulsa will also host ISU next September.
Iowa State (6-6, 3-6 in Big 12)
NOTING THE CYCLONES: All six of the Cyclones losses came to teams that will play in bowl games....Iowa State ranked third in the Big 12 in scoring defense, allowing 23.3 points per game....Linebacker A.J. Klein was named first team All-Big 12 for the second straight season. Klein had a team-high 98 tackles and his four career interception returns for touchdowns equal the NCAA record for linebackers.
GAME NOTES: After a one-year absence, C-USA's champion returns to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl as it has all but year since the league's first football season in 1996....C-USA teams have an all-time record of 11-9 in the game....Tulsa's only other AZLB appearance was in 2005 when the Hurricane defeated Fresno State, 31-24.